Q: I weaned my daughter about 10 days ago, shortly after her first birthday. I weaned her slowly; i.e. a week or more between dropping each feeding. I read that this is best to do, so that your breasts can adapt easier. About two days ago my right breast began hurting (very tender to the touch, it feels like I “need to feed”). Is this normal? I read about mastisis and I have no fever, chills, or any other symptoms beside the tenderness.
A: Gradual weaning as you described is the safest way for mom to wean. This reduces the risk of breast infection, but doesn’t necessarily guarantee that an infection won’t happen.
The tender breast you describe sounds like a breast that needs to be emptied, at least enough to be comfortable. This could be the beginning of an infection, and by aggressively treating it now, it could prevent a major infection from happening. Try putting warm compresses on the breast and then either hand express or use a pump, or even put the baby on the breast (if she and you are willing) to drain just enough to be comfortable. Gentle breast massage behind the sore spot might help as well. Lying in the tub with that breast under warm water, or having a warm shower run over the breast can help as well.
If you get to feeling like you are coming down with the flu—achy and feverish—assume it is a breast infection and contact your doctor. An antibiotic might be needed.
By Melissa Clark Vickers
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant